22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Vyvyane Loh

Vyvyane Loh was born in Ipoh in Malaysia. She grew up in Singapore and completed a degree in Biology and Classics at Boston University in the US. She then went on to study at the medical school at Boston University and a undertook residency in Internal Medicine in the Boston area. After a short stint in a private practice, she quit her full-time medical job when she was awarded a full scholarship to the MFA programme at Warren Wilson College in Creative Writing (Fiction). While pursuing her degree, she worked part-time as a physician, an aerobics and dance instructor and personal trainer to support herself. She graduated in July 2001 and her novel,  »Breaking the Tongue«, which was written during her MFA programme was published in 2004. In this book Loh tells the story of a Chino-Malay family which, believing in the superiority of British culture, adopts the lifestyle of the colonial gentry. Disdainful of their Asian fellow countrymen, and yet not treated as equals by the Europeans, their whole view of the world becomes unhinged when in 1941 Japanese troops capture Singapore. The novel weaves together references to Joseph Conrad, George Orwell and E.M. Forster with autobiographically inspired experiences in a complex narrative structure which merges a multiplicity of perceptions, dream sequences, flashbacks and flashforwards. Out of this emerges not only a sweeping historical panorama, but also an exciting adventure and a subtle novel of formation. Loh also focuses on the complex relationship between language and culture, the real dangers of cultural uprootedness and the existential importance of cultural identity. »I wrote ›Breaking the Tongue‹ because after living abroad for years I wanted to write about ›home‹; I wanted to write about a country [Singapore] that had deliberately set out to create a national identity out of its ashes.« All the same, the novel transcends its postcolonial problematic and becomes a parable of multicultural coexistence, and of the cohesion between different ethnicities and religions in a globalized world. Ever since the publication of her book Loh has given many readings and appeared on television and radio. The author currently continues to work part-time as a doctor and choreographer, and is an active volunteer with House Rabbit Network. She lives in Watertown near Boston with her nine bunnies and »hus-bun« and is working on her second novel.

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